For Educators: Ways to Reset & Reflect During the Winter Break

After a year with so much upheaval, here are a few tips I have shared recently with educators to consider over the winter break to highlight the importance of prioritizing well-being. Putting your own metaphorical oxygen mask on first is critical for you to be ready to support your students and fellow faculty and staff members when you return to school after the break.

Take a real break. Make a conscious decision to use a large part of this winter holiday to rejuvenate rather than working on new lesson plans.

Spend your time wisely. Determine what would be the best use of your time during the break. Invest in quiet time alone or spend it with others in person or via Zoom. Choose things that will bring you joy. Making a plan will prevent you from getting pulled into work or mindless internet scrolling (though, if scrolling brings you joy – you can certainly make that part of your plan!)

Ditch the phone. Do something where you leave your phone behind, like taking a hike, playing a board game, trying a new recipe, or reading for pleasure.

Get your sleep. We talk a lot about kids needing enough sleep, but adults need it too! The recommended amount for adults is 7-9 hours each night.

Make a healthy resolution for the new year. Make a commitment to do one thing differently next semester that will be good for your mental and physical health. Here are a few ideas to build a healthy habit into your day:

  • Take a quick walk or ten-minute stretch break in between classes, or immediately before or after the school day.
  • When possible, substitute a zoom call for a walking meeting via phone.
  • Take five minutes to meditate with your eyes closed, focusing on your breathing.
  • Try a two-minute gratitude practice. 
  • Prepare healthy lunches or breakfast meals on Sunday to save time during the week and cut back on fast food.
  • Refrain from checking email after a certain time each night. You might even propose a healthy email policy where your school turns off the schoolwide intranet between 10pm and 5am, encouraging students, parents, and faculty and staff to take a break. (You can still compose emails, work on lessons, etc. if you have to, but no emails will be sent or received during this “blackout” period.)
  • Start your day with some fun music and dance time; you can do this with your students too!

Reflect on what has worked in your classes this semester and what hasn’t
Plan some time before school starts again to consider what you might want to keep doing next semester and what you might want to change. What new practices or innovations did you try this year in remote, hybrid, or in-person classes that seemed to go well? What are some new strategies you would like to try in January that will allow you to:

  • Build stronger connections and relationships with students? 
  • Focus more attention on individual students and address learning gaps?
  • Assess learning more effectively and efficiently?
  • Increase student engagement via small and large group activities?

Denise Pope, Ph.D., is a Co-Founder of Challenge Success and a Senior Lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, where she specializes in student engagement, curriculum studies, qualitative research methods, and service learning. She is the author of, “Doing School”: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students, and co-author of Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids. Dr. Pope lectures nationally on parenting techniques and pedagogical strategies to increase student health, engagement with learning, and integrity.